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WGA Awards: ‘The Americans’ Producers on Their Long, and Extremely Victorious, Goodbye

A year after Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg locked the series finale of “The Americans,” the showrunners’ farewell tour comes to an end this Sunday. The FX show is among the nominees for best drama series at the Writers Guild of America Awards, which reps the last in a string of major kudos for the show.

“We’re grateful because we get to keep having reunions with these people that we love, and it has allowed us to remain in denial about the end,” Fields told Variety. “We’ve had this crazy season where we have all the benefits of enjoying ‘The Americans’ without having to go through the hard part of making another season.”

While many retiring series sputter to the finish line, “The Americans” has enjoyed a bit of a victory lap in recent months, starting with multiple wins at the Television Critics Association Awards in August, followed by two Primetime Emmy Awards (outstanding drama writing for Fields and Weisberg, and outstanding drama lead actor for Matthew Rhys) in September.

Then came the 2019 awards season frenzy. The final season of “The Americans” earned the show its first-ever Golden Globe nomination for outstanding drama — which the show won.

“The Americans” was also named one of the AFI Awards’ TV programs of the year (something it has won five times); named best drama series at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards; and named outstanding producer of episodic drama TV at the Producers Guild of America Awards (after its first nomination). The show’s cast also earned its first-ever SAG Awards nomination for outstanding drama ensemble.

The accolades came after years of being snubbed by most of the major TV awards, even as critics championed the show. “Without the awards we were able to write and make the show we wanted to make, tell the story we wanted to tell as we told it with this amazing group of collaborators who we not only worked well with but who we loved working well with,” Weisberg said.

Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields.70th Primetime Emmy Awards - Trophy Table, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2018 Joe Weisberg, left, and Joel Fields, winners of the award for outstanding writing for a drama series for "The Americans", attends the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles
CREDIT: Eric Jamison/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

And then, just as it was coming to a close, the show started winning. And winning. “In years past we would write those speeches and you’re really like, ‘we’re never going to give it,'” Fields said. “It was weird this year writing those speeches and thinking, well we might there’s a chance we may have to give this speech! It makes writing those speeches a different experience. The thing about public speaking, what no one talks about is how it’s fantastic to win — but it’s a little bit of a relief when someone else wins.”

Across this year’s awards, one acceptance speech stands out for both executive producers: At the Critics’ Choice awards, the duo made an effort to thank as many people on the crew as possible. “We didn’t get through every name but it was fun to try to do that, because those are the people who were there early in the morning to late at night doing the hard work of taking what was on the page and getting it into the camera and getting it out there,” Weisberg said.

Joel Fields, Joe WeisbergFOX Golden Globes After Party, Inside, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Jan 2019
CREDIT: Vince Bucci/Fox/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock

The Golden Globes win was an especially big surprise for Weisberg and Fields, given that the show was considered pretty much a long shot. Not only had the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members ignored the show over the years, but also the voters famously pride themselves on being at the forefront of picking new shows first for major awards.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated that it was going to grow that much or turn into anything that got this kind of awards attention,” Fields said. “And so to end up with this level of appreciation and attention is both surprising and extremely, extremely gratifying.”

Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg - Best Drama Series - 'The Americans'24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards, Show, Barker Hanger, Los Angeles, USA - 13 Jan 2019
CREDIT: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock

Weisberg and Fields admit it’s been a bit strange to lengthen their “Americans” goodbyes. The cast and producers continued to see each other long after the show’s wrap — first to promote the show, then to campaign for the Emmys, and after that to attend all of the wintertime awards shows.

“There were so many endings for us on the show,” Fields said. “When we wrote ‘fade out: The End’ on the final script. There was when we did the final read-through. The last day of filming. The last day of the mix, when we said goodbye to the mixing crew. There was ending after ending. There was the Emmys. It’s been crazy.”

But with the awards season coming to a close, so is the final opportunity for “The Americans” team to come together under official business. Weisberg said it has “started to sink in,” while Fields said he knows it’s time to move on.

Up next, Fields is an executive producer on FX’s upcoming limited series “Fosse/Verdon,” and both he and Weisberg are also EPs on the Freeform pilot “Breckman Rodeo.”

“The truth is we had this great run with ‘The Americans,’ we were ready for it to end,” Fields said. “It’s sad and very emotional and extremely hard to not be seeing everyone we’re so close to on a daily basis but I think everybody felt it was the natural time.”

And that includes a firm no-spinoff policy. “For now, it feels like Philip [Rhys] and Elizabeth’s [Keri Russell] story ended where it wanted to end,” Fields said.

First, however, the final piece of unfinished business: Sunday’s WGA Awards. “The Americans” is up against “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Succession” in the drama category. “The Americans” has been nominated every year since 2015, and previously won in 2016. Although the category incumbent is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” WGA voters have had a habit in giving retiring series one last honor — including “Mad Men” for its 2015 swan song, and “Breaking Bad” as it ended in 2013. And that may mean one final trip to the stage — and one more trophy — for Weisberg and Fields before they say das vedanya for good.

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